How to improve WordPress speed

Tips and Guides/ 29th Jun 2016/Will Cook-Martin

When it comes to websites, speed matters. The time it takes your WordPress site to load, directly influences how successful it will be. According to a survey done by Akamai, roughly 80% of customers will avoid shopping at sites that don’t load within two seconds.

Importantly website performance also influences your rankings in search engines and whether they are even likely to be indexed at all. Google’s John Mueller confirmed this on a Google Webmaster Help thread, stating a specific period of time as being too slow for GoogleBot to crawl. The time… you guessed it, 2 seconds.


2-second-test

Does your site pass the 2 second test?

I’ve suggested some techniques below to optimise your WordPress site. Before you review I recommend you use a service such as YSlow, Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools or GTMetrix to see how your site is currently performing and how quickly it loads.

Warning

Before you complete any of the steps below you should backup your files and your database. You can either do this manually, or by using a plugin. I recommend either Duplicator or UpdraftPlus


review-your-plugins

1. Review your plugins

I’ll let you into a secret; I like to test WordPress plugins to determine their usefulness. The problem is I often forget to delete them afterwards! You might be guilty of this too, even if you’re not you should still regularly review your plugins and remove any that are not needed.

The more plugins you have installed, the more resource they use and the slower your site will be. It’s a bit like a computer, it’s quick and responsive when it’s new but the more software you install on it, the further performance degrades.

To combat this issue I highly recommend you use a plugin called P3. It will show you the load impact of each plugin that you have installed. Remove any plugins that are having a detrimental effect that you can live without.


optimise-your-images

2. Optimise your images

High-res images that are unnecessarily large in file size can dramatically increase page load times. This can be resolved by compressing the images without compromising on quality – it’s a no brainer!

Plugins to consider

WP Smush | Optimus | EWWW Image Optimizer | ShortPixel

optimise-css-js

3. Minify and Combine CSS and JavaScript

Combining and reducing the size of CSS and JavaScript files is a great way to improve page load times.

When someone visits your site, their browser scans the resulting HTML for resources it requires (images, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) and then sends a request to your server to download them.

By minifying these files through a variety of techniques, we are able to reduce the size and therefore the time it takes the user’s browser to download them.

Why do we need to combine them as well? Well modern web browsers only support on average 6 simultaneous downloads per domain, anything over this is queued. So if you have a page that serves more than 6 files, combining them will make it load quicker.

Plugins to consider

Minit & MinitYUI | Better WordPress Minify | W3 Total Cache (also recommended as a cache plugin)

combine-images

4. Combine images used site-wide

Combining images into a single file can also speed up your website in a similar fashion to combining JavaScript files.

Only images that are used on every page or regularly throughout your site should be combined. Otherwise you risk increasing page load times, by downloading images that would not have been ordinarily.

Making the sprites is easy: a service like CSS Sprite Generator will do it for you. Deploying the images is a little more complex and requires knowledge of CSS and HTML.


use-a-cdn

5. Use a CDN

A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a global network of servers that delivers content. The benefit of a CDN is that it serves the content from the server closest to you – if you live in the London a CDN server in London will be used, Tokyo, a CDN server in Tokyo… you get the idea!

If you have a global audience you should definitely consider using a CDN, in order to help deliver your content quicker and help with your page load speeds.

Another benefit to a CDN is that it helps alleviate strain from your hosting environment by reducing the number of HTTP requests it has to process – it may also help you get over the simultaneous downloads per domain issue (see step 3.).

All in all using a CDN to deliver static content usually has positive effects on page load times, try it for yourself.

We recommend Cloudflare, which makes implementation a breeze, they’ve also created a plugin.

Did you know…

CloudFlare can be added for FREE* with all our hosting plans, which includes a dynamic content caching system called Railgun (normally $200 per month from CloudFlare directly).

* The CloudFlare basic package will be suitable for most users and is free of charge. We can also include Railgun web optimisation within the free account due to our partnership with CloudFlare. For enhanced features such as SSL, real time analytics, DDOS protection and web application firewall a paid account will be required as detailed here: https://www.cloudflare.com/plans

use-a-cache-plugin

6. Use a cache plugin

Wordpress is great at serving dynamic content, anything from a wiki to a blog to an e-commerce store.

Being dynamic creates its own issues however – every time a user visits your site, not only does your server have to process the static content (images, CSS and javaScript), it also has to process PHP requests and fetch data from the database. All this data processing, particularly on lesser powered hosting environments inevitably leads to slower page load speeds.

This is where caching can help. Caching means that your webpages (articles, posts, reviews etc.) are no longer served or accessed from the server database. Your visitors are served a fixed HTML file, which is faster, thanks to the lower number of requests from the server.

Plugins to consider

W3 Total Cache (also recommended for JavaScript and CSS optimisations) | WP Super Cache

In Summary

If you have the time, patience and a little know-how using the above techniques can significantly improve your page load times.

At Clook we have developed and refined our WordPress optimisations over a long period of time. We use several other techniques in addition to those discussed above and make use of Varnish, Memcached and Pound, which adds several layers of complexity but significantly improves page load speeds. If you’d like to know more just get in touch.

Any comments?

What step improved your site speed the most? Do you use any other optimisation techniques? Let us know in the comments section below.


Will's our technical sales guy from the hills of Rossendale. A follower of Stoke City, father to Eddie, husband to Catherine and a fan of gadgets - oh and he's recently mastered the art of really slow DIY.
We have a very strong team here at Clook and we build on everyone's strengths and weaknesses, you have to be able to make a good brew too!

Chris James

Customer Login

Forgot Password? Cancel